We finally got our hands on the MG3 some 4 months after it hit the market in China and 7 months after it was unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show. At the Guangzhou Auto Show we got our first taste of what the MG3 was all about, and we left unimpressed: the plastics were cheap, the seats were uncomfortable and the dashboard a let-down. What exactly happened between the launch and production happening is not entirely clear, the MG3 we drove was anything but a cheap small car, itâ€™s a competent car and a possible rival to the Chinese built Ford Fiesta and other joint venture produced cars in the Chinese market â€“ Iâ€™d even go as far as saying this is the first Chinese car I would buy with my own money.
Small cars are not really my cup of tea, for far too long they have been designed with the female consumer in mind and lack the raw power appeal that would bring a man into the driving seat, look at the current Nissan Micra (March) or the Toyota Yaris for good examples of cars that were built with the more feminine consumer in mind, only the Suzuki Swift has always been the gender neutral super mini but now the MG3 has arrived.
The MG3 is based on an entirely new platform with the heavy design and engineering work happening in the UK but the production happening in China, of course when the MG3 hits the market in Europe in the next 18 months (MG UK are predicting an end of 2012 launch for the 3 in the UK) it is highly likely to be a different specification to the Chinese markets offerings. The MG6 has been like marmite in the UK with consumers either loving or hating MGâ€™s new bold corporate nose, the design has been controversial in the MG
Owners Club and has split the ear hair brigade down the middle when it comes to answering the all important question: Is the MG6 a real MG? The6â€™s biggest drawback from fans and critics alike are its cheaper plastics and lack of proper grunt engine, we can safely say that this is not the case in the 1.5L MG3. It appears that MG have learned quickly from the MG6 and have introduced solid chunky plastics into the 3, power is not lacking either.
Our test car had 5 adults on board, two members of the MG sales team and three journalists, with the air conditioner working on full to battle the 38 degree Shanghai weather and Berlinda Carlisleâ€™s Heaven is a Place on Earth (not our choice) blasting over the ample stereo we took to Shanghaiâ€™s elevated highways and crowded inner city streets to see what the 3 could do. Letâ€™s just say the 1.5L engine producing 107bhp to the front wheels was more than capable of propelling us to 100kph and beyond, waving in and out of heavily congested traffic on the elevated expressways was not an issue either. Gear swapping was done by an AMT gearbox which mixes the ability to swap gears manually or throw the car into automatic mode for easy driving, no 0-100kph (0-62mph) times were quoted by the official brochure, but the MG representative present told us a time of roughly 11 seconds for the AMT but the manual is supposedly much faster. The gearbox is not exactly accurate and takes half a second to hit the next gear but it does the job and keeps costs down, but the exhaust note is the big surprise here â€“ who would have thought an economy micro car would let out a decent sound? The interior has some interesting design traits that we havenâ€™t seen elsewhere in MGâ€™s and Roeweâ€™s, the control buttons on the steering wheel are certainly iPod inspired, and the shock of white on the door handles, hand brake and also the stereo break up the monotony of the design.Â The seats are made from a strong material and are on par with what you find in the Skoda Fabia or VW Polo, oddly there is no leather option yet.
Storage room seems to be an issue with the trunk only carrying 256 litres of space and only two cup holders up at the front. The dash plastics are very solid and on par with the Skoda Fabia, the roof on this model did of course come with the Union Jack to give the MG3 some added personality, something that the Skoda and VW alternatives are lacking in. The centre console had gained a very clear GPS unit which was an extra option for this model and does not come as standard, there was also a Bluetooth unit for those that want to talk on the go without breaking any laws, parking sensors are also fitted to the rear as standard for those that cant park a small car.
From driving the MG3, even though it was for a relatively short time, it was clear that the designers had gone out of their way to create something is not just a commercial product created with the sole goal of filling a segment. Obviously a fair amount of blood sweat and tears have gone into developing the MG3 to make it into a competitive product, and this is what separates it from the competition who are just bringing out new generations of their older models to satisfy a segment. MG fans will never be a unified bunch when it comes to deciding if they like the bold new MG styling, but they will no doubt enjoy seeing the company grow back its diminished reputation with a new younger fan base.
The interview was carried out in partnership with well renowned China automotive journalist Mark Andrews.Â